by Denise Mazzola, CPDT – KA
So many times we want the quick-fix. How many advertisements are there for weight loss magic, just take this pill or avoid a certain food. Need to stop cigarette smoking? Use the patch, want your children to behave, plop
them in front of a video game, you get the idea. There is no magic fix to life’s big issues. If you want to lose weight, the recipe is simple, eat less, exercise more. Want to stop smoking, the patch will help with cravings, but you also have to change your behaviors. Even children require stimulation, enrichment, fresh air and exercise. All these will have additional benefits that sitting in front of a video game does not provide.
It should come as no surprise that there isn’t a quick fix for most dog behavior problems. Most behavior issues require a multi faceted approach. Some of the components might be training, brain toys, changing the environment, crating and exercise. All of these will require time. Personally, I think the easiest and the biggest bang-for-your-buck is exercise. There are benefits to the dog and the owner.
Don’t panic at the word exercise, I’m not talking about running miles with your dog, although that would be great. I’m talking about a simple walk or hike on a daily basis or even every other day. Let’s first consider some of the more popular breeds and what they were bred to do. Labradors are hunters, breed to run through brush, into water and retrieve, golden retrievers are very similar, poodles are hunters, they can have a high prey drive and are quick to kill rodents, beagles although small were breed to live with other dogs and to run for miles with their noses on the ground and terriers are little terrors! Bred to hunt rodents, squeeze down rodent holes, chase until caught, they are high energy and tenacious beyond belief. Don’t let their small size fool you. The point I’m trying to make is that all dogs were bred to perform a task, and if we aren’t using them for those specific tasks, which most of us are not, they will need another outlet. As the dog owner, the one who selected the dog it is your responsibility to fulfill your dogs inherent and distinct needs.
When dogs are boarding with us, we make a point to take them out, each day, for a minimum of an hour walk. The rest of the day is calm as the dogs are satisfied. Each dog finds a cozy bed, a toy or a spot of sunshine to lie in. It’s not just the walk; it’s the sniffing their surroundings, the sounds, the running through the woods or sometimes swimming. It’s the enrichment and stimulation that comes from walking or hiking for an hour. It’s important to change where you walk. The same walk around the block is b-o-r-i-n-g, not only for your dog, but for you as well. Walking has so many human benefits as well. There is the obvious exercise, but there can be a clearing of the mind. Walking is relaxing, a time to slow down, enjoy your surroundings, process the days work or think about how amazing your kids are.
Exercise will not solve all your dogs’ behavior problems, but it will be a great start, because a tired dog is a great dog.
Certified Professional Dog Trainer Denise Mazzola is the owner of Denise Mazzola’s Everything Dog. She has been training dogs and people for over 25 years. Everything Dog provides services to clients throughout the Monadnock Region of NH by offering private lessons, group classes, board and train, as well as day training services. Denise has been published in the trade journal, Chronicle of the Dog, and writes a monthly column for the Monadnock Ledger Transcript. She also hosts a monthly “Ask the Trainer” radio show on WKBK. Denise lives in Keene with her life and business partner, Amy Willey CPDT-KA, and they share their home with three dogs and three daughters. For more information, visit www.everythingdognh.com.